PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) regulates and licenses professional radon testers and radon remediators (aka mitigators) in the Commonwealth. PA DEP has set standard radon testing protocols as documented in the PA Radon Act which must be met for a professional radon test to be validated by the radon professional. These protocols ensure that professional radon tests are performed to set standards and help provide quality control for professional radon testing.
Note - To prevent a potential conflict of interest (finding high radon levels in a home and then offering to repair the issue), WIN Home Inspection performs radon testing only. We do not perform radon mitigation (aka remediation) services. Also, keep in mind that radon testing, radon remediation/mitigation, and the inspection of radon remediation/mitigation are all outside the scope of a home inspection.
To learn more about radon and radon testing, please read our Radon: Hazard or Hype? article.
It doesn't matter if a home is in a city or out in the country or if a home is brand new or 200 years old. All homes should be tested as any age, location, or style of home can have high radon levels. The only way to know your home's radon level is to perform a radon test. Historically, WIN Home Inspection has performed radon tests all over south-central PA and has found high and low radon levels in all ages, locations, or styles of homes.
PA DEP requires Closed House Conditions starting a minimum of 12 hours BEFORE the radon test begins and held throughout entire the radon test. Professional radon tests performed as part of a real estate transfer will normally run between 2 days (48 hours) and 3 days (72 hours) but may run longer at the radon test professional's discretion.
Closed House Conditions include:
1. All exterior doors (solid exterior entry doors, not storm or screen doors) must be kept closed other than normal entry and exiting of the home starting 12 hours BEFORE the radon test begins and throughout the radon test's duration. In other words, when entering or exiting the during this period of time, exterior doors should be opened only momentarily when going out in coming in and then closed. This protocol does not include garage doors, but does include any mandoor between a garage and the living space or basement.
2. All exterior windows (includes ALL STORIES/LEVELS OF THE HOME, not just the basement windows) must be kept closed starting 12 hours BEFORE the radon test begins and continues throughout the radon test's duration.
3. Central heating and air conditioning (A/C) systems should be run normally and set between 68~75 degrees F. If the home is vacant or unoccupied during the radon test, the central HVAC system should be left running (in whatever mode is right for the season) to ensure adequate air flow through the home to mimic the home being lived in during the test.
4. Window and/or wall mounted air conditioning (A/C) units must only be run in circulation mode starting 12 hours BEFORE and during the radon test. Please consult your unit's owners manual to determine if your window or wall mounted A/C unit has circulation mode built-in. If it does not or if you are unsure, window and/or wall mounted A/C units must NOT be run starting 12 hours BEFORE the radon test begins and throughout the radon test's duration. Running a window or wall mounted A/C unit without circulation mode is essentially the same as having a window open during the radon test since it allows exterior air into the home.
5. Fireplaces, wood/coal/pellet stoves, etc. should NOT be operated during the radon test unless they are the home’s only heat source. Fireplace dampers must also be kept closed for the radon test again starting 12 hours BEFORE and throughout the radon test's duration.
6. Clothes dryers, kitchen range hoods, bathroom exhaust fans, and attic/roof mounted vent fans can be operated normally. Whole-home ventilation fans (often mounted in a hallway ceiling) should not be run starting 12 hours BEFORE and during a radon test since they will pull air up through the home and likely increase the radon level in the home providing for an inaccurate radon test.
7. Do not disturb, touch, or move the radon monitor(s), power cord(s), or test stand(s) for any reason. When the radon monitor(s) is placed and the test started, the testing professional will document exactly where the radon monitor(s)/test stand(s) is located; this data will be compared to where the radon monitor and test stand(s) is located upon returning to retrieve the radon equipment at the end of the test period. Also, please keep small children and pets away from the radon monitor(s)/test stand(s). Radon monitors have built-in motion devices. Should the radon monitor or test stand(s) be touched, moved, or bumped, the radon monitor will register this as tampering. Per PA DEP protocols, indications of tampering in the test data require that the radon test must be voided. Also, if tampering is indicated in the test data, our client may require that another radon test(s) be performed, possibly at the home owner's expense.
8. Radon testing will normally occur in the home's basement as close to the center as possible depending upon the location of an accessible receptacle and away from heating/cooling registers. If the home has living space on concrete slab or above a crawl space, additional independent radon test(s) may need to be performed in these areas as well.
9. Ceiling fans, portable fans, portable humidifiers, and portable dehumidifiers should NOT be operated on the same level/story of the home as the radon test is being performed.
10. Active radon remediation (aka 'radon mitigation') systems already installed in the home must be running at least 24 hours BEFORE the radon test starts.
11. Please notify all occupants of the home, including children and any visitors, of the need to cooperate with maintaining these PA DEP Radon Test Protocols before and during the radon test period. This helps prevent the possible need and cost for retest(s).
At the beginning of the radon test, a "Radon Test Agreement" document will be left in the home (normally at or near home's kitchen sink) for the home owner or tenant to read and sign. This signed document will be picked up when the radon monitor is retrieved. Only once this Radon Test Agreement is signed may the radon test be validated and the results provided to our client per PA DEP protocol. If this document is not signed upon the radon test retrieval, there will be delay in providing the radon test results to our client. As part of the ASHI Code of Ethics, WIN Home Inspection has an explicit confidentiality agreement with our client; this prevents us from providing the radon test results to any person but our client (and their real estate agent, should the client's permission be given).
PA DEP regularly audits all professional licensed radon testers in the Commonwealth of PA which includes reviewing all radon testing documents including radon test data, radiation exposure tracking, adherence to the professional's Quality Assurance (QA) Plan, etc. It is the radon testing professional's responsibility to ensure that all of the above radon test protocols are met for quality assurance. EPA Guidelines require professional radon testing companies to make a conscientious effort to detect any attempt to alter a professional radon test.
The Radon Testing procedures listed above follow EPA "Protocols For Testing Radon And Radon Decay Product Measurements In Homes" (EPA 402-R-93-003-June 1993) and “PA Radon Act” (PA state law) requirements.
Should you have any questions about the PA DEP Radon Test Protocols, please feel free to contact us at (717) 361-9467) or the PA DEP, Radon Division at 1-800-23-RADON. Click here to learn about the PA Radon Act.
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© 2018 Matthew Steger
Matthew Steger, owner/inspector of WIN Home Inspection, is a Certified Level 1 Infrared Thermographer, an ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI), an electrical engineer, and a PA DEP licensed radon testing professional. He can be reached at: 717-361-9467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIN Home Inspection has provided a wide array of home inspection services in the Lancaster, PA area since 2002. This article was authored by Matthew Steger, ACI - owner of WIN Home Inspection in Lancaster, PA. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Matthew Steger.